distinguished from their activity as public art patrons. Stalinnis said to have wept when he ordered the death of OsipnMandelstam, but the poet’s murder was an affair of state.nThe same Stalin, along with Hider and Mussolini, creatednand fostered artists and architects whose works embodied thenaims of their ideological regimes. If you visit the Ara Pads ofnthe Emperor Augustus in Rome, you will discover that it isnin a neighborhood dominated by fascist architecture whosentell-tale ugly inscriptions invite an unflattering comparisonnwith the noble lettering on the emperor’s monument tonpeace and plenty. (You may even see my name spraypaintednin black on a wall of what looks to be a fascistnbuilding, underneath a sign for Alfredo’s.)nAugustus, too, along with his friends, was a great patron.nHe rebuilt much of Rome and befriended both Horace andnVergil. Neither of these poets was a lackey of the Augustannregime, but both willingly lent their pens to its support.nToday, when we assume that all great artists are self-declarednenemies of the people, it is fashionable to treat Vergil as ansecret opponent of the Princeps’ restoration, but that isnreading back our own misconception into the ancient world.nIt is not only kings, tyrants, and strongmen who knownhow to employ art in the service of the state. The first greatnimperialist democracy, Athens, devoted enormous resourcesnto rebuilding temples on the Acropolis, and we have only tonthink of David to realize to what extent the ideology of thenRevolution permeated French art at the turn of the 19thncentury.nBut wait. The public art of Greece and Rome isnmagnificent, and David, although a loathsome person, was angreat painter. Even the monuments of Hifler and Stalin arenpopular in style and occasionally interesting as works of art.nSurely I am not saying that in America our official art is thenrepulsive and amateurish bric-a-brac subsidized by thenNEA? Yes, that is exactly what I am saying. Postmodernismnis not only the art of our regime, but it provides the bestnclues for discovering the nature of the modern Americannstate.nLike most Americans, I do not know much aboutnmodern art. Anything after art nouveau (in manner ifnnot in time) is too nouveau for my taste, too poor for mynblood. Still, I do go to museums and sometimes do notnentirely succeed in carrying out my intention of avoiding then20th-century wings. Perversely, they always seem to benplaced as an obstacle between Greek vases and the Impressionists.nThe opinion I have formed over the years isnconsistent with the popular taste of the cabdrivers and carnsalesmen, who continue to believe that art should benbeautiful and represent things either as they are or ought tonbe, although as one modern artist observed of another:nthings are seldom as they arenWhen played upon the blue guitar.nTo me and to the cabdriver who drives me to the museum,ncontemporary art is a) ugly, b) artiess, c) offensive to thenmorals of most responsible stick-up men and hardworkingnprofessional killers. “Why they wanna put up stuff likenthat?” he asks. “Used to be you could take your family to thenWhitney. But who wants to see two guys going at it? It’sndisgusting. Besides, look at that junk” — he points to a stacknof garbage cans he mistakes for a piece of public sculpturen— “Hey, my kid could do better’n that with finger-paints.”nBecause I grew up speaking with the accent of a musicncritic being interviewed on NPR, most cabbies or barroomndebaters assume they can get a rise from me by puttingndown highbrow art and music and books. But I agree withnthem. I have always agreed with them, even when I was thensort of person I sound like. But, I ask them, what is thenpoint? Assume for the moment that the effect of modern artnon most of us is not unintentional; what would that tell us?nTake ugly. If art is ugly, if we come to believe that all art isnugly and that beauty really is in the eye of the beholder, thennthere is no chance that ordinary people might enjoynpainting, music, and poetry. In earlier centuries, mostnconcert-goers came to appreciate music through performancesnof contemporary works. Mozart’s audiences did notnattend The Marriage of Figaro and sigh: “This is OK, but itnain’t Monteverdi.” Beethoven and Brahms were not just anbig success: they served to define music for their contemporaries.nIn the United States and Western Europe, the lastncomposers to attract such popular attention were probablynPuccini and Richard Strauss, although from what I canngather Prokofiev and Shostakovich made a powerful impressionnon Russian audiences. There is a wonderful passagensomewhere in Solzhenitsyn’s First Circle where the Zeksneagerly await a radio broadcast of a Shostakovich symphony.nIn my lifetime I have never experienced that sort of eagernanticipation for a new work of a favorite writer or composer,nexcept for the period when Anthony Powell was putting outnthe volumes of A Dance to the Music of Time.nAnd in painting, my experience with modern and postmodernnart has been so dispiriting that it largely put me offngoing to exhibitions of contemporary artists. Those withnmore public spirit who do go and put themselves under theninfluence of contemporary masters will inexorably findnthemselves drawn into the moral and aesthetic universe ofnMr. Warhol and Mr. Serrano, a bleak and disorientednlandscape of joyless homosexualism, pointless violence, andnmalevolent impiety toward all received wisdoms. It is thenmilieu of proles and street people, of the cowards andnlackeys who would take no risks that might interrupt thenmonotonous round of expensive ethnic cuisines and disembodiednorgasms. For the present, it is Brave New Worldnspiced with A Clockwork Orange, although there is alreadynan undercurrent of Bladerunner that bubbles up like annoverflowing sewer to disturb the revelry in a wodd that isnpostmodern, postfamilial, postmoral, and postpolitical.nWhat is the creed of state postmodernism? Somethingnmight be put together by a student willing to wade through anstack of grant proposals or to read copies of journalsnsubsidized by the NEA and CCLM, but the results wouldnbe misleadingly vivid: sado-masochism, child-molesting, andncoprophagia are in, monogamy is out. Violent revolutionnand pacifism, tribalism and universalism are celebrated withna passionate pluralism that can embrace everything butnloyalty and restraint. It is a misleading picture, because thenwriters of these manifestos are for the most part quiet littlendrudges addicted to prescription drugs and nonviolent (i.e.,nsafe) protest. Our ideological state promotes their delusionsnand eccentricities in the same way that the Soviets used tonnnJUNE 1990/15n